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Hawaii Receives Federal Funding Amid National Spike In Drug Overdoses

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Overdose rates had been falling nationally prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Drug overdoses in the United States have spiked during the coronavirus pandemic.

Data collected by the Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program at the University of Baltimore found there has been an 18% increase in overdoses since the start of the health crisis.

In Hawaii, the federal government is stepping in with funds to help local service providers increase addiction treatment options.

The Department of Health and Human Services recently awarded $2 million in grants to expand substance abuse treatment in Hawaii, with a particular focus on opioids.

Prior to the pandemic, the number of overdoses from opioids and other drugs had been declining nationally according to HHS. But the COVID-19 appears to have reversed that trend according to Thomas Engles, Administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration at HHS.

“We were starting to see a good downward trend in opioid and other overdose related incidents,” Engle said in an interview with HPR. “When COVID happened, we started to see an uptick again. It’s because people haven’t been able to get access to their treatment facilities or talk to their healthcare professionals.”

HHS has made expanding tele-health services a priority. By using virtual appointments, healthcare providers and patients can still meet with patients during the pandemic and continue treatment. Engles said that has been major contributor to the spike in overdoses.

“Health centers have not been able to see patients,” he said. Some patients have been afraid to go into their local facility out of fear that they might be infected with COVID.”

The recent grant funding will be split between the Hawaii State Rural Health Association and West Hawaii Community Health Center. The money can be used to develop new addiction treatment programs or expand community access to existing services.

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